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How Close To The Property Line Can I Build a Fence?

representation of property line

Fences are a great addition to many properties, and they come in a variety of different types and uses. Some fences are built to add privacy to a yard, other fences are designed to keep animals in, and others are purely decorative. Whatever the reason for wanting to put in a fence, it is prudent to know the rules and regulations that govern the placement of fences.

Many people want to use fencing as a demarcation between their property and that of their neighbors. But how close to the property line are you allowed to build? Can you build right up to the line without repercussions? Unfortunately, the answer differs depending on your jurisdiction. We’ll give you the skinny on what to expect when it comes to this boundaried topic—pun intended.

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Check Local Regulations

The correct answer to questions regarding fences and property lines is to always consult local rules and regulations. That is an anticlimactic answer, but the truth of the matter is it is different in every jurisdiction. Not only are the rules unique to each area, but they can also change rapidly over a very small area. A city might have one regulation while the county may have another. Unincorporated communities might have completely different rules than the neighboring town, which is only one street over. Rarely are these kinds of rules determined at the state or federal level.

Furthermore, certain neighborhoods, subdivisions, or homeowner’s associations might have unique rules of their own that people agree to when they move to those places. These rules can be enforced in conjunction with or instead of the local city rules.

Before doing any building, it is always a good idea to check the local rules and regulations. Fencing is easily spotted and often draws the attention of local inspectors and nosey neighbors, so doing everything properly the first time is imperative to prevent expensive adjustments. In some places, improperly erected fences have to be torn down and rebuilt completely. That will quickly double the cost of the project with one bad ruling.

Property line markers with pink ribbons
Photo Credit: RobDun, Shutterstock

A Good Rule of Thumb

That being said, if you are in the early planning stages, there is a good rule of thumb to use while considering building on the property line. Most regulations that govern fence placement along fence lines will mandate a setback of 2-8 inches. The exact number will be determined by your specific local guidelines.

If you want to be completely safe, building a fence a full 12 inches off of the property line will ensure that you meet almost every standard guideline. However, some lots are small, and many homeowners do not want to give up a foot of space from their yards.

Where To Get Your Property Line Information

Many lots have obvious property lines, but not all do. If you have no clue where your property line even is, you will have to get that information before you can safely start planning a fence project. Property surveys are kept by local officials, and they can be accessed in a variety of different methods depending on your local offices.

Sometimes property surveys are kept at the local library. Some records are kept at the county courthouse. If you are lucky, some counties keep property records online and can be accessed from home on the computer. Some municipalities require people to pay for a copy of the property survey. Again, unfortunately, it all depends on your specific local systems.

person pointing on cadastral map with pencil
Image Credit: ronstik, Shutterstock

What To Do If You Can’t Find Your Property Survey

In some cases, property surveys can be lost or are not kept at the local level. If that happens to be the case, a new survey might be required. Surveys can cost hundreds of dollars, and it requires a licensed professional to come out and redraw the maps that mark the property lines. This might sound like a pain, but building on a neighboring property without permission is an even bigger pain.

Local surveyors can be found online, or you can ask the local building permitting office who they suggest for property surveys. Sometimes the county will provide surveying services of their own. But if you do not have a clear property line or records of the property boundaries, you will need to find that out before you decide to build any fencing.

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Determining how far from a property line to build a fence depends on local laws and regulations. Every individual community will have different laws, and they can vary just slightly. Getting these measurements right is critical to ensuring you do not run into issues with neighbors or local officials in the future. Experts suggest that most regulations call for a setback of two to eight inches but always check to be sure. It is always better to be safe than sorry in cases of local law and building rules.

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Featured Image Credit: flyingv3, Shutterstock


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